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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 29, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

    Crocodile Tears for Michael Jackson?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The prolonged mourning for the late Michael Jackson is  becoming distasteful. No doubt he had a great musical and theatrical talent and, of course, anyone’s death is a tragedy, especially the demise of one who was still relatively young and had a lot more to offer in artistic terms. 


    But really. One cannot help feeling that more worthwhile people have passed away virtually unnoticed. You would think he was a great hero of the African-American struggle when, in fact, the impression he conveyed for years and years was that he desperately wanted to be white (I am open to correction if anyone has an alternative version of events).

    As with the sad death of John Lennon all those years ago, there is a growing feeling that some people are just using Jackson’s premature end as an excuse to get themselves on television.

    And then there is his father, Joe, who is on telly night and day just now. According to the BBC website, when Joe was asked in 2003 if he had repeatedly beaten his son, as Michael had alleged, he replied: “I whipped him with a switch and a belt. I never beat him. You beat someone with a stick.” Why is this man allowed to show his face? (Click here to read more about the BBC interview.)

    The question-marks about Michael Jackson’s relationship to children over the years, and that appalling episode where he dangled his baby over the balcony of his hotel, make one wonder even more as to why this, in many ways, unfortunate and even wretched creature is being mourned as though a great saint or public benefactor had left us.

    I’m sorry he won’t be able to sing and dance for his audience – for whom he could apparently do no wrong – any more. In that sense his passing is a loss. But what one  can surmise about his private life does not make one feel like weeping at great length. Having said that, I would definitely subscribe to John Donne’s dictum that “No man is an island” and that we should “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

    Yet there must be gradations of grief. Some led more worthwhile lives than others and it is those who should be mourned the most. Michael Jackson should be allowed to Rest in Peace. Let’s get on with our own lives and save our tears for somebody better.

    • Una P says:

      I guess whilst some worked tirelessly for the betterment of society, culture, politics, etc., the general public, being better acquainted with the image and sound of Michael Jackson, feel his death to have more impact/relevance/meaning to them …

      Just as people feel politics has nothing to do with them and invest their time in gossip magazines. The things that work for us are not always the things noticed or admired. But that which glitters shall always attract attention.

      Personally I feel sorry for Jackson as he appears to have been a tragic and misused being, the victim of his own life – but as you say let that not distract from dubious elements of his life.

      I agree that people of more importance die silently in comparison to this gaudy spectacle.

    • Joe says:

      Really sorry he can’t dance and sing any more? But that has been the case for a long time…

    • Colin Forbes says:

      Michael Jackson the ‘flawed’ genius. Let’s get real here: when he was acquitted of his alleged child molestation cases (2?), he was a pariah in the States and no civic-minded record label would touch him. The only reason he was supposedly playing the Wembley 02 gigs was purely to replenish his finances. By agreeing to do those concerts he was walking into another financial quagmire as the chances of him completing them was zero if reports of his state of health before his death were correct. Michael Jackson was an avid attention-seeker with one amazing gift of being totally self indulgent.

      His passing is sad, as it is with any human being, but earth-shattering it is not.

    • Gary says:

      I agree in the most part Deaglán and I for one have been avoiding the coverage as much as possible for the same reasons you outline. I’m not so sure about your statement that “had a lot more to offer in artistic terms”. That time for him had passed and new material was unlikely to be created.

    • Edt says:

      Who are you to deem how other should feel and whom they should love? The outpouring speaks for the affect and inspiration this artist had on the world.

    • aidan says:

      With respect, it’s just the latest in the post-Diana public hysteria for whatever celebrity passes away (Jade Goody, for instance) and I think certain parts of the media have some responsibility for fuelling it. One UK-based TV news channel comes to mind.

    • robespierre says:

      Ben Jonson, some 400 years ago found himself being drowned out by bawdy, populist stage comedies. As a satirist, he was challenged by his contemporaries and their willingness to dip into the same barrel that the likes of the Three Stooges stooped to to get a bargain-basement laugh.

      Jonson, however snobbish and ascetic it may seem, made a conscious choice to concentrate on his art and continue writing biting satire on subjects that mattered.

      Similarly, it behoves the IT to concentrate on important stories like Honduras, Iran and ongoing conflicts and unrest in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Somalia, Darfur etc. At home, Vincent Browne and others consistently write about the 30-40% that do not vote and live outside of what others might commonly call society – the most marginalised in our society.

      I hope it can do this without affecting its circulation because unfortunately that is all this story or the obsession with Madeleine McCann was about. I particularly like the last line of this closing stanza from Jonson’s Ode to Himself (i.e. only he was reading his work) where he has a cut at his critics and the hoi polloi in the audience.

      And since our dainty age
      Cannot endure reproof,
      Make not thyself a page
      To that strumpet, the stage,
      But sing high and aloof,
      Safe from the wolf’s black jaw and the dull ass’s hoof

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I had a rather perverse suspicion that the likes of Sky News were persisting with the 24/7 coverage because after 3 days he might rise again? And they didn’t want to have missed out.

    • Tony S says:

      Spot on with the comment about his dad

    • amergin says:

      As PJ Barnum said, ‘Never underestimate the public’s propensity for bad taste’.

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